Disagreement in the Bahamas on combating crime
The opposition has rejected government proposals, a day after they were outlined.
NASSAU, Bahamas, Wednesday October 5, 2011 – The government and the opposition Progressive Liberal Party, PLP, are at odds over the proper fit to combat crime following this year’s record 104 murders.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has outlined a range of measures including a one-month gun amnesty, stiffer penalties and a volunteer programme, but the PLP said the measures are “woefully inadequate.”
On Monday, the prime minister gave residents with illegal firearms until October 5 to turn them in to the police.
“After the 4th November anyone convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition will, upon conviction, be imprisoned for a minimum of four years,” he warned in a national address.
“I highlight the fact that the power of magistrates to impose sentences is being increased from five to seven years and that conviction on drug and gun related offences may attract the maximum sentence of seven years.”
The prime minister said four Magistrate’s Court will deal exclusively with drug and gun crimes, up from the previous two, while there will be a six year penalty for the possession and sale of drugs discovered within one mile of any school.
According to Ingraham, legislation will also go before parliament to authorise the non-disclosure of a witness’s identity to avoid them being intimidated.
“For persons convicted of murder who are not sentenced to death, the alternative penalty of life imprisonment will be imposed where the victim is a witness or a party in an action (civil or criminal), where a member of a jury or past jury in a criminal case is murdered, where the offence is in relation to the murder of more than one person, or where the convict had been previously convicted of murder and when the murder was committed on the direction of another,” he stated further.
“The sentence of death would also apply where the victims is a member of the Police Force, Defence Force, Customs, Immigration and the Prison Services, members of the Judiciary, or where the murder occurred in the commission of a robbery, rape, kidnapping or an act of terrorism.”
But the opposition PLP criticised the recommendations and said that a more holistic approach is needed to fight crime.
It has proposed that the possession of high-powered weapons be tried in the Supreme Court, which will allow greater sentencing power than what has been suggested by the Prime Minister.
“The overall effect of the PLP’s Safe Bahamas plan is that murders will be tried within 12 months. Under the Swift Justice initiative, the PLP was able to conduct a preliminary enquiry and murder trial within 12 months,” the statement explained.
“…Juror and witness tampering, attacks on Judges, Policemen and Prosecutors will be tried within 6 months. The FNM (Free National Movement) cancelled Swift Justice in 2007, for purely political reasons, and despite its track record of success.”